Without a doubt, kettlebells are one of the best tools to work on your conditioning for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Yes, there is nothing better than joining classes, drilling, and sparring. But outside of that, you work on your weaknesses, whether that is strength, cardio, flexibility, power, or endurance.
Why Are Kettlebells Great For BJJ?
Kettlebells are great for BJJ conditioning because they don’t make you bulky, it’s possible to get bulky with kettlebells, but in general, due to the dynamic and ballistic qualities of the kettlebell, it’s not easy to end up looking like a bodybuilder. Which is great, because that’s not what we want, we want the strength (and looks) without losing flexibility, movement, agility, and explosiveness. That’s exactly what you get from kettlebell training:
- Mental toughness
- And much more
First, let me tell you that I could come up with a hundred kettlebell exercises that are tremendous to improve your BJJ one way or another, but that’s material for a book, in fact, I’ve got several great workouts specific for BJJ in my book Kettlebell Workouts and Challenges 1.0, and I’m covering several in the new online course. I chose these three kettlebell exercise because they’re an awesome combination to work on:
- Cardiovascular endurance; train to make your heart and lungs last longer
- Muscular endurance; train to make your body last longer
- Mental toughness; train to not give up before your body does
- Explosiveness; train to increase maximal force production in minimal time
- Power; train to increase speed under increased resistance
- Mobility; train to increase the ease at which you move
The three exercises I picked will work all of the above and more.
Being Able To Last
Pacing yourself is important in BJJ. If you go hard from the get-go it usually ends up in you gassing out and being submitted before the match has even started. The kettlebell long cycle is perfect to work on your pacing and endurance. This 10-minute beast is exactly the same, go hard from the get-go and you’ll gas out, having to give up before you even started. Not only do you improve endurance with this one but you’ll get something even more important, mental toughness, the ability to push through just that bit further. You know, feeling that pressure, not being able to breathe, feeling completely defenseless, ready to give up, but you don’t, you dig deep and pull more out of the tank, you explode and turn things around. Well, that’s the same with the long cycle, you have this heavy beast applying pressure on you (the kettlebell), and it just won’t go away, you’re ready to give up, but you pull through and start another repetition, you do this for the next 9 minutes till you reach the end of what you set out to do, complete a 10 minute long cycle without putting the weight down.
The long cycle consists of a kettlebell combo, the clean and jerk. It can be done with one or two kettlebells, two is tougher, but one is great to start with and get used to working for 10 minutes without putting the weight down.
From this beast you reap the following:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Mental toughness
You need some cardio or you simply won’t complete the task. Increase cardio by building up time, start with 4 minutes and build up to 10. Increase cardio by increasing reps. Increase your muscular endurance by repeatedly exerting force against resistance. Increase your mental toughness by pushing through the pain, pushing through the difficult moments, and not giving up. Work on the explosiveness in your legs as you’ll need to be able to quickly push the knees forward (knee flexion) and pull them back (knee extension) immediately transitioning into a dip under. Increase power by increasing weight and reps over time. You gain mobility in the shoulders, thoracic, hips, knees, and ankles from the whole movement.
This people, this is Long Cycle AKA Clean And Jerk
In a workout
Being Able To Get-up And Take-down
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu it’s important to get up quickly and have the strength and speed to take down swiftly. This exercise is one that provides so many benefits, I love that it works on flexibility/mobility, stability, and strength all in one. Work on your explosiveness by increasing the speed at which you bring the weight from dead to racking (clean). The fact you’re doing this with one leg works on your stability. Rack, drop, reverse lunge, reduce velocity, movements done one after the other or some at the same time all require coordination. Holding on to a kettlebell works your grip, the better your grip, the better you can hold on to your opponents’ Gi. Remember those days you had no grip strength and your opponent wiped your grip off without breaking a sweat? Turn that grip into a death grip where all he has to focus on is your grip while you smoothly transition to a triangle. I present to you the reverse lunge dead clean.
Move, Move, Explode, Explode, Don’t Gas!
Sometimes you both have great skills and you’re playing quick chess, one move after the other, you need to stay ahead of your opponent, you need to keep moving, you need to explode, you need to pull everything out of the tank and more, you can’t gas out or the game is up. This is where Gorilla Cleans come into play. This full body movement requires coordination, explosiveness in the legs, it will test your cardiovascular system like nothing else, and much more. Try a few of these and you’ll be gasping for air in no time. Let me quickly run you through this one. You need to hold one kettlebell tight to your body, can’t be relaxed, then you drop the other kettlebell down, you reduce velocity with the legs, then you explode up, you need to generate enough force to pull the weight up with the lower-body, there is no curling here. You catch the weight in position only to repeat what was already a huge task, you drop the other kettlebell and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. Program this one in sets of 4, 6 or 10 if you’re really advanced.
This version is less explosive but requires more coordination.
Include in workout
I know these exercises will improve your game on the mats, and even help injury proof. If they helped you any at all, a little shout out is always appreciated. Post on our Facebook or tag @realcavemantraining on Instagram. With that, I leave you with a bit of fun